Monthly Archives: September 2017

Saudi jeweller L’azurde signs deal to buy rival

Saudi jeweller L’azurde signs deal to buy rival

Retailer says agreement inked to acquire 100% equity stake of Izdiad Commercial Company of Arabia

Saudi jewellery giant L’azurde has announced plans to buy a competitor operating in the affordable luxury sector in the Gulf kingdom.

L’azurde for Jewelry Company said in a statement that the board has approved the signing of a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Tamkeen Industrial & Trading Company to acquire 100 percent equity stake of Izdiad Commercial Company of Arabia.

L’azurde, which raised SR477.3 million ($127 million) from its initial public offering in 2016, makes gold and diamond jewellery in Saudi Arabia and Egypt and distributes to wholesale markets in 52 countries, mainly in the Middle East.

The statement said the duration for the MoU is for a period of eight weeks from the signing date, extendable on the parties’ agreement.

It added that the transaction final price is subject to certain conditions and the outcome of the legal, financial and commercial due diligences and signing the final share purchase agreement between the parties.

The transaction is expected to be financed by bank credit facilities and cash generated from operational activities.

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Topshop and Topman New Zealand to close stores

Topshop and Topman New Zealand to close stores

Topshop and Topman New Zealand are closing its Auckland and Wellington store  after a failed attempt to find a buyer for the fast-fashion retailer.

Topshop and Topman is operated by Top Retail in New Zealand, with the firm entering voluntary administration in early September on the back of consecutive losses.

The UK-based retailer came to New Zealand in 2014, with Kiwi clothing firm Barkers, Christchurch property investor Philip Carter and fashion designer Karen Walker taking the rights to own, develop and operate the brand locally.

Topman/Topshop opened on Auckland’s Queen Street and on Wellington’s Lambton Quay, with plans to add two more stores as well as an online store by the end of the year 2017.

Conor McElhinney and Kare Johnstone of McGrathNicol said in a statement that “after conducting a detailed assessment of the business and following conclusion of a sale process for the business and assets in whole or in part”, the stores would close after 1 October 2017, but could close earlier if they run out of stock, according to local media.

“It is with regret that we have had to inform staff today that the business is unable to continue trading and that Topshop and Topman will no longer have a presence in New Zealand from Sunday,” the receivers said.

“We would like to thank the directors of Top Retail for their support, which has enabled gift cards to be redeemed during the receivership trading period, and staff for their commitment since our appointment.”

Topshop’s Australian arm was put into receivership in May 2017.

The biggest Primark ever is opening in the UK next year

(Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)

Primark fans, take a deep breath, because we’ve got some amazing news for you.

Primark is set to open a brand new store – and it’s going to be bigger and better than ever. The biggest in the UK, in actual fact.

The new store, which is going to be inside centre:mk shopping complex in Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire, will be opening its doors to customers next year.

The store is going to be spread across 75,000 square feet and will feature every single item in the Primark range.

Think hooded unicorn blankets. The Beauty and the Beast bedroom range. Minnie Mouse-inspired heels. Mickey Mouse Christmas baubles.

We can’t cope.

Of course, we’re sad that the store is only opening in Milton Keynes – we’d like to have a gigantic Primark everywhere we go.

But apparently, it’s come in response to lots of requests by shoppers who were asked where they would most like to do a bit of Primark shopping.

Kevin Duffy, centre manager of centre:mk, is excited about adding the Primark store to the shopping complex.

He said: ‘We are thrilled to announce that Primark will be joining our fantastic selection of fashion and beauty brands at centre:mk next year.

‘Primark is a firm fashion favourite, and so we look forward to attracting more visitors by expanding the centre’s fashion retail mix.’

Currently, we’re unsure of when the store will be opening and how many floors it’s going to include.

So right now, we’re just going to have to sit back, attempt to relax, and pray that there’s going to be an entire section dedicated to Primark’s false nails

COS to open online mall in Korea

Hyundai Department Store announced that it will open COS brand mall at The Hyundai.com.

COS also launched the official online store in Korea. Price at online mall is the same as the offline mall.

COS is a fashion brand that offers a collection of high quality at reasonable prices based on modern and practical design.

Launched in London, UK in 2007, it currently operates stores in 35 countries around the world, including Europe, Asia, the Middle East and the Americas, and is being sold online in 20 countries.

In Korea, there are 11 offline stores, including Hyundai Department Store Trade Center and Pangyo Branch.

Hyundai Department Store expects to have more young customers in their 20s and 30s, which are the main target of online shopping, through the launch of the course brand on Hyundai.com.

According to the analysis of the sales by age group of COS in Hyundai Department Store trade center and Pangyo branch, 30s (31.9%) and 20s (28.8%) were ranked first and second respectively.

The official of Hyundai Department Store said, “As competition in online shopping mall gets tougher, sole products that do not sell at other online malls are attracting attention as major competitiveness.”

“We will introduce various brands to offer shopping experiences for customers in the future,” he added.

In the meanwhile, H&M Group’s premium spa brand, & Other Stories, is also in the process of launching an online store. In 2017, & Other Stories opened three stores in Apgujeong, Starfield Hanam and Starfield Goyang in Seoul.

Since & Other Stories launched the first online mall in2013, it is currently operating in 14 countries and Korea becomes 15th online selling country.

The online mall is scheduled to open in Korea this autumn and the date is not yet confirmed.

Harvey Nichols to open new store in Doha

Harvey Nichols to open new store in Doha

Luxury retailer Harvey Nichols has confirmed plans to a new store in Doha. The department store group said it has signed a licence agreement with Saleh Al Hamad Al Mana Group to open an outlet in Doha Festival City.

The 7,432 square-metre store is scheduled to open early 2018 and will sell an “exclusive edit” of fashion, homeware and beauty brands. It is the first high-end, international department store to be confirmed as a tenant by Doha Festival City. Upon completion, Doha Festival City Mall will be Qatar’s largest shopping mall with a gross leasable area of some 250,000 square metres.

It will house 550 outlets including 85 restaurants and cafes, the country’s first-of-its-kind Entertainment Zone, which will include VOX Cinemas and a snow park and will feature around 8,000 parking spaces. Phase one of the mall was completed last March and included the construction of Qatar’s first IKEA store.

Doha Festival City

Primark takes biggest letting in 25 years

Primark takes biggest letting in 25 years at Centre:MK

Primark is set to take over the former BHS store at Centre:MK in Milton Keynes, marking the shopping centre’s largest letting in quarter of a century.

The discount fashion retailer has penned a deal to move into the 75,000sq ft space, a year after BHS vacated the premises.

Of the 160 BHS stores which now stand vacant, only around 40 per cent have been filled as demand for large retail spaces falters.

Brands like Primark and Sports Direct have taken around 25 of the 160, while a further 35 have planning permission or have secured tenants for the near future.

The space will see the former BHS location on Silbury Arcade extended and is set to be handed over to Primark for fitting next year.

Over £60 million has recently been earmarked for investment in the shopping centre in what is being dubbed the “re-imagining an icon strategy”.

Joint owners Hermes Investment Management and AustralianSuper said the letting was a milestone in their rejuvenation strategy, following repeated visitor surveys highlighting Primark as the most requested brand.

Amazon invests $27.6m in Indian retailer

CEO Jeff Bezos has allocated $5 billion toward Amazon’s expansion in India

Amazon.com  is set to buy a 5 percent stake in Indian retailer Shoppers Stop, valued at $27.6 million (1.79 billion-rupee), as the US company steps up efforts to gain ground in the fast-growing consumer market.

Shoppers Stop’s board approved the issuance of 4.4 million shares to a unit of Amazon for 407.78 rupees ($6.28) each, the Mumbai-based company said in an emailed statement late Saturday. As part of the deal, Amazon experience centres – which let customers test out the products available online – will be set up across Shoppers Stop’s network of 80 bricks-and-mortar stores in India.

CEO Jeff Bezos has allocated $5 billion toward Amazon’s expansion in India as it seeks to secure an advantage over local rivals in the South Asian nation. The e-commerce giant has a lot riding in the country after its washout in China, where the dominance of Alibaba Group and other domestic players made Amazon’s entry difficult.

Shoppers Stop, which sells cosmetics to clothing and home appliances at its outlets, will have an exclusive flagship store on Amazon’s Indian site where it will retail its entire portfolio of more than 400 brands, the company said. Shares of Shoppers Stop have gained 45 percent this year and closed at 418.1 rupees on Friday in Mumbai.

The deal will be Amazon’s first investment in a publicly traded retailer in India.

New Balance to open 40 new stores across Gulf

New Balance to open 40 new stores across Gulf by 2020

The athletic shoemaker sees strong demand for its style of trainer throughout the region

New Balance, the Boston-based maker of trainers and running shoes, is planning to aggressively expand its presence in the Gulf region, increasing its store count to 50 by 2020, its regional manager has said.

The announcement came as the footwear and athletic clothing manufacturer opened its first flagship store in the Middle East at Dubai Mall.

“The launch of this store is the pinnacle of our progress in the Middle East, but it is also just the start,” said Stuart Henwood, Country Manager for the Middle East and India, New Balance.

Henwood says he has been very encouraged by what he has seen since the store had its soft opening around one month ago.

“This is a prime mall, and for the brand to be in this location is key from a sales perspective and also from a marketing perspective,” he said.

The senior executive, who has previously run the company’s Asian business, refused to confirm how long New Balance had to wait for the highly sought-after retail space (Dubai Mall has a waiting list of years in some cases for brands looking to open stores there), or how much New Balance was paying to be in Dubai Mall.

“It’s an important statement to be here,” Henwood said.

New Balance, founded in 1906 in the United States, currently has 10 stores across the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) region, Henwood said.

“Opening this store in Dubai Mall has encouraged us to open more stores, and working with the Apparel Group has been a big benefit,” he said.

Aggressive push

The Apparel Group is a franchisee partner that operates brands such as Tim Hortons, Tommy Hilfiger, and Nautica, holding exclusive relationships with different malls throughout the region.

“We are always looking at expanding our global footprint, and looking at emerging markets,” Henwood said, in reference to the brand’s aggressive push throughout the Middle East.

“There’s good business to be done here,” he added, noting Saudi Arabia’s large population and the willingness of young people in the Gulf to spend significant amounts of money on shoes.

As a result, Saudi Arabia will see at least one new store open in the next three months in Riyadh, whilst the further 39 that Henwood has touted to arrive in the next three years will be across locations in Saudi, Kuwait, and Egypt among others, according to Henwood.

Microsoft is opening its first retail store in London

Tom Warren

Microsoft is opening its first UK store in London. RetailWeek first reported that the software giant is in talks to secure a building at Oxford Circus, a popular shopping venue in the heart of London. Microsoft has confirmed that it plans to open a store in London. The building is currently occupied by United Colours of Benetton, but Microsoft is set to sign a 10-year lease on the property in the coming weeks. As has become tradition, Microsoft’s new store is just a few doors away from Apple’s own retail store on Regent Street.

Microsoft has tried to secure locations in the heart of London’s shopping district for years. The company was originally planning to open a store in the UK back in 2013 after registering its own limited company. Microsoft found it difficult to secure the building it wanted, and ultimately shelved its plans to open a store in London. This new deal means the retail location will be the first Microsoft store in the UK and Europe. Microsoft has stores across the US, a few in Canada, and one each in Puerto Rico and Australia.

Max Mara opens redesigned flagship store in New York

Max Mara opens redesigned flagship store in New York at Madison Avenue

The opening event of the Max Mara flagship in New York unveiled not only the stunning reimagined space, but saw the release of a special edition mini Whitney Bag. While the bag boasts vibrant, jewel-tone colors and a luxe velvet material, the newly conceptualized store boasts approximately 5,000 square feet in the Victorian-style building located on Madison Avenue and 68th Street.

The refurbished space, designed by Duccio Grassi Architects, highlights the spirit of the Max Mara brand through a manifestation of its Italian heritage and contemporary energy.

House of Fraser H1 profits and sales hit by heavy discounting

British department store chain House of Fraser half-year earnings fell to an 8.6 million pound loss for the 26 weeks to July 29, 2017, down significantly from its EBITDA profit of 900,000 pounds for H1 2016.

House of Fraser’s like-for-like sales and profits for the first half of the year dropped after being heavily disrupted by HoF’s new online platform launch and “significant discounting” of its in-house womenswear labels. Like-for-like sales fell 5.2 percent compared to 2016 and online sales dropped 9.8 percent during the 26 week period following the roll-out of House of Fraser’s 25 million pounds revamped online store in April. Gross profit slipped 5 percent from 207.2 million pounds in H1 2016 to 196.9 million pounds in H1 2017 as HoF cut prices to move old stock.

HoF sees 5 percent decline in profits for H1 2017

However, in spite of the sales and profits hit HoF remains upbeat about achieving growth in its final quarter, as the impacts caused by its new online platform and womenswear ranges were mainly over. House of Fraser’s new ecommerce system is said to be “working well” as “good progress” has been made to recover sale volumes. The department store group announced that it aims to be trading normally by the beginning of its final quarter in its trading update.

HoF also announced that it has completed the launch of its new womenswear in-house labels, which saw five existing womenswear brands dropped and the remaining four relaunched for AW17. The new collections have been “well received” so far, with “initial revenues” exceeding expectations” added the company. In addition, HoF also began its 18 million pound investment scheme in its distribution centre to increase capacity, drive operational efficiencies and improve profitability during the first half of the year.

The department store chain predicts this investment will deliver 5 million pounds of efficiency savings during the second half of the year, increasing to a run rate benefit of 15 million pounds of efficiency savings by the time the project is completed by mid-2018. House of Fraser also opened its first new store in the UK in nine years time during the first half go 2017. Located in Rushden Lakes, the store opened its doors on August 24. HoF also closed a loss-making store in Leicester and aims to shut an additional location in Aylesbury.

“My observations after a few weeks are that since Sanpower acquired the business in 2014 the primary focus has been on stabilising an enterprise that had been starved of investment for many years,” said Alex Williamson, CEO of House of Fraser. “Whether it be refinancing the business, the investment of over 100 million pounds in capital expenditure since the acquisition or a root-and-branch upgrade of the executive team, much has already been done to prepare us for significant transformation.”

“House of Fraser has much to be optimistic about. This is just the start of our journey with several other projects designed to provide additional sales and costs savings as part of the overall Transformation Programme due to commence shortly. I am excited about what lies ahead for the business and I am optimistic for the future. With the support of Sanpower, we are building the right foundations that position us well to deliver on our ambitions for sustainable profit growth.”

Fat Face makes four internal senior promotions

Fat Face has promoted four of its senior staff to director level as part of an ongoing investment drive to improve its products and ecommerce divisions.

Emma Shaw has been promoted from head of design to design director, while Kate Brown was promoted from head of buying and quality to buying and quality director.

Shaw and Brown have been with the lifestyle and fashion retailer since 2011 and 2014 respectively.

Meanwhile, Nick Stevenson has been promoted from head of merchandising and sourcing to director of the same area, and Paul Wright has been promoted from head of ecommerce to ecommerce director.

Both Stevenson and Wright have been with Fat Face since 2011.

Fat Face chief executive Anthony Thompson: “I always think that internal promotions are a reflection of the talent in any organisation, and I am delighted for Emma, Kate, Nick and Paul.

“This announcement also reflects our determination to continue to invest in product and develop a truly multichannel business.”

Profits at House of Fraser under pressure from web platform launch

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half-year earnings sunk to an £8.6m loss

Profits at House of Fraser have come under strain after the launch of a new web platform and “significant discounting” took its toll on the retailer.

The department store chain said half-year earnings sunk to an £8.6m (€9.7m) loss, down from a £900,000 profit in 2016, as website sales suffered from the roll-out of a £25m online sales platform.

Gross profits also slipped 5pc to £196.9m over the period, as the group slashed prices on old stock to pave the way for a new womenswear brand.

Gross transaction value hit £545.8m, with like-for-like sales dropping 5.2pc compared to last year.

However, the retailer said it was optimistic about delivering growth in the final quarter, as the impacts of launching the new online platform and womenswear range were largely behind it.

Chief executive Alex Williamson, who joined the firm earlier this year, said: “My observations after a few weeks are that since Sanpower acquired the business in 2014 the primary focus has been on stabilising an enterprise that had been starved of investment for many years.

“Whether it be refinancing the business, the investment of over £100m in capital expenditure since the acquisition or a root and branch upgrade of the executive team, much has already been done to prepare us for significant transformation.

“And House of Fraser has much to be optimistic about.

“Our new House Brand Womenswear collections for autumn/winter have been launched and our customers’ response to date has been very encouraging.

“Our new web platform greatly improves our customers’ experience and online margins whilst our investment in the distribution centre will deliver cost savings through improved operational efficiencies.”

House of Fraser, which employs 5,000 people and has 59 department stores in the UK and Ireland, opened its first store for nine years in August at Rushden Lakes in Northamptonshire.

Toys ‘R’ Us forced to file for US bankruptcy

Toys ‘R’ Us forced to file for US bankruptcy

September 20 2017 2:30 AM

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Toys R Us Stock

US retail giant Toys ‘R’ Us filed has for bankruptcy, under a debt load piled on the business in a private-equity buyout a decade ago.

The company listed debt and assets of more than $1bn each in Chapter 11 documents at the US Bankruptcy Court in Richmond, Virginia.

Prior to filing, the chain secured more than $3bn in financing from lenders including a JPMorgan-led bank syndicate and certain existing lenders to fund operations while it restructures, according to a company statement.

The funding is subject to court approval.

US debtor-in-position loans allow a company to tap new lenders who get preferential security, while it goes through Chapter 11, helping the business trade throughout its insolvency process.

Toys ‘R’ Us didn’t announce plans to close stores, and said its locations across the globe would continue normal operations.

“Like any retailer, decisions about any future store closings – and openings – will continue to be made based on what makes the best sense for the business,” a spokesman said.

The bankruptcy filing is the latest blow to a brick-and-mortar retail industry reeling from store closures, sluggish footfall and the rise of Amazon.com.

A dozen big US retailers have filed for creditor protection this year. (Bloomberg)

Kuwait’s Alshaya invests in Alabbar’s e-commerce platform Noon

Kuwait’s Alshaya invests in Alabbar’s e-commerce platform Noon

Retail franchise operator acquires stake in soon to be launched online marketplace

Kuwait-based retail franchise operator MH Alshaya Co has acquired a strategic stake in Noon, the region’s new e-commerce platform, it said on Thursday.

Additionally, Alshaya said it will become a seller on Noon’s marketplace platform, listing a portfolio of international brands covering the fashion, health & beauty and home and lifestyle categories.

The company did not say how much it paid for the stake in Noon, which is set to launch later this year.

Alshaya becomes the latest large retailer to list its products on Noon, which serves as a digital platform for retailers to reach online customers in the Middle East.

Mohammed Alshaya, executive chairman of Alshaya, said: “We see great value in our partnership with Noon, which complements our existing online channels. We are impressed by Noon’s capabilities, and we are excited to partner with the Noon team to present a winning value proposition for the region’s online shoppers.

“Our partnership with Noon will allow us to expand our customer base, reach new market segments, and participate in the next level of growth in regional e-commerce.”

Mohamed Alabbar, founder of Noon, added: “It is our privilege to partner with Alshaya and give our customers access to Alshaya’s leading international brands. Noon brings a new business model for e-commerce, developing a strong supply chain that benefits regional businesses. We will work with the region’s leading brands and retailers to help them grow their business through Noon.”

In July, Faraz Khalid, the former co-founder and managing director of fashion online retailer Namshi, was appointed CEO of Noon.

SOUQ.com to purchase Wing.ae marketplace for merchants and couriers in the UAE

SOUQ.com today announced it has entered into a definitive agreement to purchase Wing.ae, a marketplace for merchants and couriers in the UAE, providing innovative mobile and web-based user-friendly delivery solutions for businesses and individual consumers. SOUQ.com previously invested in Wing.ae and will be acquiring 100% of the company.

Wing.ae now has the full backing of SOUQ.com, a subsidiary of Amazon.com, and this investment demonstrates the continued commitment of all three companies to provide SOUQ.com customers with a world class experience. Wing.ae will continue to invest in growing its same and next day delivery service in the region, enabling greater convenience for Wing.ae’s customers, including SOUQ.com.

Ronaldo Mouchawar, SOUQ.com CEO & Co-Founder, comments: “At SOUQ.com, our customers will remain our key focus and we will continue to deliver an exceptional online shopping experience. Fast dependable delivery is key to this, and Wing.ae provides SOUQ.com customers with more convenience for their same and next day delivery. With Amazon’s support, we are putting all our efforts in providing an ever-improving shopping experience for customers in the Middle East.”

“The UAE is a leading e-commerce and smart hub in the region, and in this demanding business we work to fill the logistics supply gaps to offer customers the excellent service they want as fast as possible,” says Muzaffar Karabev, CEO and Co-Founder of WING.ae. “With the support of SOUQ.com, Wing will accelerate investments into our technology, infrastructure and regional coverage to provide innovative delivery solutions and to make online shopping for SOUQ.com customers and merchants even more convenient.”

BHS.com sales soar 35%

Online sales at BHS grow 35% thanks to new start-up mentality.

The MD of BHS.com has revealed sales at the online retailer have increased by over a third in Q2.

Speaking to the Press Association, BHS.com MD Kevan Mallinder said sales grew 35%, bolstered by its womenswear clothing range which increased 350% over the period.

Mallinder said the business was treating the brand like a “disruptive start-up” after it was bought by the Middle-Eastern Al Mana Group in June 2016.

He told the Press Association: “Because we are privately owned by the Al Mana Group, they want to see the business succeed over the long term, which brings a different aspect to the decisions.”

Mallinder was bought in to direct the e-tailer six months ago, coming from food delivery firm Abel & Cole.

The much-loved British brand, BHS, entered administration in April 2016 leading to the loss of 11,000 jobs. An ongoing enquiry is investigating the controversy surrounding the retailer’s pension deficit.

Monki announces new UK store openings

Following the openings of Arket and Weekday on London’s Regent Street in August, parent company H&M has announced plans to open two new Monki stores, one at Westfield Stratford and the other at Buchanan Galleries in Glasgow. Both stores will adopt the Monki World concept, leading customers into an imaginery universe that has inspired 115 stores.

With fitting rooms decorated across a spectrum of rainbow colours, Sea of Scallops tables, shimmering features and exclusive Monki World facade, the new stores will offer the full storytelling experience.

Although technically the Swedish fashion brand’s debut in the Scottish market, the 480 sq m Glasgow store will cater to an existing fan base that already gets its fashion fix online.

The 370 sq m Westfield Stratford store will mark Monki’s third retail space in England, alongside its Carnaby Street and Bristol stores.

UAE’s Al-Futtaim said to be in talks to buy M&S business in Hong Kong, Macau

UK retail giant Marks & Spencer reportedly in discussions over deal for Hong Kong and Macau operations

UAE-based conglomerate Al-Futtaim is reportedly in talks with UK retail giant Marks & Spencer for the possible purchase and franchising of its business in Hong Kong and Macau.

The UK’s Financial Times said the talks could see Al-Futtaim become the sole franchisee for M&S in Hong Kong and Macau, adding that M&S has operated in Hong Kong since 1988 and has 27 stores in the city.

Al-Futtaim has worked with M&S since it opened the British retailer’s first store in Dubai in 1998.

The deal covers only the company’s retail business and its Hong Kong sourcing operations will remain wholly-owned, the FT added.

Mr Price wins in battle against slowdown

“As reported at the year-end results presentation in May 2017, given the current low-growth economy and resultant poor retail environment, the most significant near-term opportunity is to regain lost market share in the two divisions, MRP Apparel and Miladys, which underperformed in the previous financial year,” the group said.

The group reported in the trading update that for the first four months of its 2018 financial year, total retail sales were up 6.2% in the 18 weeks to August 5. For April, May and June, MRP Apparel and Miladys reported sales growth of 10.1% at current prices, far ahead of the 4.8% growth that Statistics SA reported for the retail sector.

The trading statement was well received, with Mr Price’s share price closing 3.45% higher at R187.50 on Friday.

Sales growth in the overall apparel segment, which includes MRP Sport, was 8.7% in the 18 weeks to August 5. The homeware division struggled, however, with sales declining 1%, due to a 2.1% fall in sales at MRP Home, partially offset by a 1.7% increase at Sheet Street.

Online sales were 6.4% higher. Those at MRP Sport and MRP Home growth tracked physical store sales growth, while MRP Apparel recorded very strong growth of 20.1%.

Group cash sales increased 6.3%, making up 82.6% of total sales. Credit sales increased 5.4%. Weighted average trading space was 2.6% higher.

Other income grew 3.4%, to R372.0m. Debtors’ interest and fees grew 7.7% and insurance revenue climbed 18%.

A temporary slowdown in cellular revenue growth, which fell 8.1%, resulted from a focus on process improvements and product mix changes.

Commentators expect some respite for the retailer sector in the last quarter of 2017.

McDonald’s workers on strike in the UK for the first time

McDonald’s workers are staging their first UK strike since the US burger chain opened in Britain over forty years ago, amid a heated row over zero-hours contracts and claims of workplace bullying.

The 24 hour strike began at midnight at two outlets owned by the fast food giant which has been selling its burgers to Britons since 1974.

The Baker’s, Food and Allies Workers Union (BFAWU) said the staff had been left no alternative but to take “the historic step” after McDonald’s management failed to meet calls for better job security by ending controversial zero-hours contracts.

<img class=”responsive article-body-image-image” src=”/content/dam/business/2016/02/18/McDonalds_Burger_E_3299494b_trans_NvBQzQNjv4BqpJliwavx4coWFCaEkEsb3kvxIt-lGGWCWqwLa_RXJU8.jpg?imwidth=480″ alt=”Burger”>

Credit: Fir Mamat/Alamy

The fast food workers in Crayford, near Dartford, and Cambridge are not officially unionised but are being represented by the BFAWU on this matter. The union’s ballot found 95.7pc in favour of strike.

“Despite all the attempts to change McDonald’s approach and help them become a fairer employer, nothing has been done on their side. Nothing has changed. Empty promises have been made. Yet nothing has been delivered,” said Ian Hodson, national leader of the BFAWU.

The staff are calling for pay to be increased to £10 an hour, up from the minimum wage of £7.50 for staff aged 25 and above. BFAWU said the fight for higher wages follows a campaign in the US, where staff are fighting for $15 an hour.

McDonald’s, which employs about 85,000 people in the UK, said it gave its staff the choice of flexible or fixed contracts with minimum guaranteed hours, but 86pc chose to stay on flexible contracts.

A spokesman for the fast food giant said the grievance is related solely to internal procedures and would affect less than 0.01pc of its workforce across just two of its 1,270 UK restaurants.

“McDonald’s UK and its franchisees have delivered three pay rises since April 2016, this has increased the average hourly pay rate by 15pc,” the spokesman added.

Mr Hobson said the voice against low pay “will not go away”.

“There is growing global movement calling for the fair and decent treatment of workers. In the US for example, the Service Employees International Union have shown the importance of collective action – with their ‘Fight for $15’ campaign having seen more than 10 million workers move towards a $15 minimum wage, and with 20 million workers in total having won wage increases since 2012,” he said.

“Hopefully, senior figures at McDonald’s will be listening,” he added.

Burberry to open new flagship store in Knightsbridge, London

The ew store is part of the first phase of The Knightsbridge Estate K1 development (1, Sloane Street) and will see Burberry relocating its local flagship from nearby Brompton Road where it currently trades from twin men’s and women’s shops. The new move to a site not far from Harvey Nichols will give it the chance to consolidate all men’s and women’s product into one flagship location on four floors and covering an area of over 15,000 sq ft.

The fashion brand and the property company have worked together before with Chelsfield having been responsible for the label’s Bond Street flagship back in 2005.

Despite a raft of openings in recent years, Burberry is carefully targeting its investment at present and only recently scrapped plans to revive the Temple Works mill in Leeds as well as delaying a decision about building a new factory on a neighbouring site. It is also reported to be looking at its London offices with a view to cutting costs.

But the brand is clearly still investing where it can see major returns. It has invested heavily refining its product offer, adding new star bags that appear to be making a major impact on its balance sheet. And it has licensed its beauty ops to specialist Coty, as well as opening a China-specific website.

The new Knightsbridge store is part of this very focused strategy with the area being a key beneficiary of the booming luxury tourist trade in London.

Burberry new store London at 1 Sloane Street

Radley to target America with Macy’s deal

British handbag and accessories brand Radley is set to return to the American market, following its withdrawal six years ago, after signing an exclusive deal with US department store chain Macy’s.

The deal, will see Radley opening concessions in 100 Macy’s stores by Christmas, with as many as 300 possible within the next 12 months, as the handbag brand attempts to crack the US market, according to reports in The Times.

“It was poorly thought through and the execution was even worse,” chief executive Justin Stead said in an interview with The Times. “This time around we’re going back with a very well thought through plan. I think it’s going to pay huge dividends.”

The move follows the private equity-backed company selling its products on TV shopping channel QVC, which was declared a success as Stead told the newspaper that during its hour-long show it sold out of its 750,000 dollars of product in just 30 minutes.

Acquired by private equity house Bregal Freshstream last year, it said at the time it saw “significant potential” in expanding Radley to the international market.

Radley was founded in 1998 and has around 32 standalone UK stores, it is also sold in John Lewis, House of Fraser and other department stores and independent retailers, as well as via its website.

Poundland given one of the biggest ever retail food safety fines

Poundland given one of the biggest ever retail food safety fines as mouse droppings found on baby clothes

The discount chain had to close one of its busiest stores when evidence of mouse droppings and urine were found on food shelves alongside gnawed and soiled packets of biscuits, nuts, sweets and popcorn

Poundland has been fined one of the biggest ever retail food safety fines (Image: PA)

A mouse infestation – with droppings found on baby clothes – has landed Poundland with one of the biggest ever retail food safety fines.

The discount chain had to close one of its busiest stores when evidence of mouse droppings and urine were found on food shelves alongside gnawed and soiled packets of biscuits, nuts, sweets and popcorn.

The problem, at the shop in Wandsworth, London, was deemed to be a widespread and uncontrolled rodent infestation by health inspectors.

Droppings were found throughout the store and the behind-the-scenes storage areas of the discount store, including on baby clothes.

The retail giant is now counting the cost of ignoring the major mouse infestation at its store in Wandsworth, London, after being hit by magistrates with what is believed to be one of the country’s heaviest ever retail food safety fines.

The problem was found to be widespread (Image: EyeEm)

The company copped the whopping fine after a court heard the London shop had to be closed using emergency powers in January last year after food safety inspectors uncovered the infestation.

Cllr Jonathan Cook, community safety spokesman, said: “This was a very serious rodent infestation in a busy and popular retailer so there was a very real and significant risk to public health.

“When our inspectors uncovered the scale of the problem they had absolutely no option other than use their emergency powers to order the entire store’s immediate closure.

“It was not permitted to reopen until the company was able to prove it had dealt with the problems and taken adequate steps to prevent it happening again.

“This episode showed a complete lack of regard for customer’s health and welfare and is reflected in the very substantial fine imposed on the company by the court .

“Food retail businesses must ensure that they do not jeopardise public health in any way if they don’t want to suffer a similar fate.”

Wimbledon magistrates court heard that Poundland Limited had been previously prosecuted on three occasions for similar outbreaks at other stories, including a £73,000 fine at Birmingham crown court, a £12,000 fine at Highbury Corner magistrates’ court and a £33,000 fine at Luton magistrates’ court.

In this case Poundland Limited pleaded guilty to four offences and in addition to the £100,000 fine the company was also ordered to pay £12,368 towards Wandsworth Council’s costs in bringing the case to court, reports the Daily Record .

Virtual reality: the Middle East mall of the future

Digital innovation is revolutionising the retail landscape in the Middle East – and not only online

The growth of retail in the Middle East has been nothing short of remarkable. London, Paris, Milan and New York still inevitably dominate the global shopping scene, but as pioneers in the retail space, emerging markets such as the Middle East are becoming very much the watchword for innovation.

But whilst the retail scene is a crucial catalyst for attracting footfall in the Middle East, as the digital economy develops, bricks-and-mortar locations need to evolve to stay relevant for future decades. Technology clearly plays a central role in this. With the rise of e-commerce in the region, it is now more important than ever that the physical mall develops and keeps apace with the changing demands of the consumer.

Take the success story of Majid Al Futtaim’s Mall of the Emirates, for instance. One can easily spend a day inside Mall of the Emirates; you can eat, drink, go to the cinema and even go skiing all before you have even thought about shopping. And this experience is far from unique. The Beach in Dubai’s Jumeirah Beach Residences (JBR) also seamlessly integrates commerce and entertainment, combining shopping, the sea and an outdoor cinema.

With the UAE’s population expected to grow to 10 million by 2030, aided by more expats and Expo 2020 tourism, the retail destination/proposition as an integrated social, entertainment and leisure destination is likely to boom. After 50 years of operating in the region, this is something Atkins is seeing more of — both in the retail space and wider sectors.

A blurring of lines, with buildings becoming multi-functional and multi-faceted can be seen in some of the region’s most important projects, such as the Burj Al Arab, Bahrain Trade Centre, Durrat Al Bahrain and the Dubai Opera. Creating an integrated retail and leisure centre destination is critical to fuse the social and urban space. And it is the customer experience that is driving this approach.

Motorola, for example, has created a personal shopping device where shoppers can scan their items as they select them, significantly reducing checkout time. Beauty retailers such as Sephora are experimenting with a virtual reality mirror, enabling shoppers to test different eyeshadows and lipsticks without applying them to their skin.

Big data will help retailers understand and market to their consumers better, suggesting products that may be relevant even before the customer has walked through the door.

All of these aspects will make the physical retail outlet more efficient. Checkout space will be reduced because customers will be able to complete transactions virtually from inside the dressing room or on their mobile phones, eliminating the need to queue.

Whilst e-commerce is growing in fortitude in the region (bolstered by the likes of Amazon’s acquisition of Souq.com), we still see the need for interaction with the product. The Middle East has a culture that favours the personal experience, and so whilst technology won’t replace this, it can still absolutely enhance it.

What we predict in years to come is how the experience will change. For example, instead of going to a car showroom to see a range of models, customers will be able to interact with virtual car models instead of physical ones. The need for an extensive physical stock may become redundant, thus streamlining and reducing the retail space to make it more profitable.

Car parks may also become redundant. The real estate footprint for car parks alone is currently extensive and costly. In the future, we will see more sophisticated transport offerings, with an increased choice of public transport, and autonomous vehicles reducing the need for large amounts of land dedicated purely to the housing of private cars. And less space for cars means more space for retail and opportunities to generate more revenue.

But of course, whilst there are numerous opportunities that technology presents to the Middle East retail sector, this is not without its challenges. Unlike their developed counterparts, shopping destinations in the Middle East have one major issue to contend with: the climate. With temperatures well into the mid-40s in the summer months, how should retailers respond to the natural environment?

This poses both a problem and an opportunity. Whilst shopper footfall increases in the summer as tourists and residents seek sanctuary in the cool environments of the malls, engineers and designers need to ensure that all adjoining infrastructure is set up to cope with the extreme temperatures.

Customer experience and comfort fundamentally remains key. Most amenities need to be enclosed, with covered walkways and transport infrastructure located close by. Those shopping areas that have outdoor elements, such as Citywalk and Boxpark in Dubai, require careful thought and planning to ensure they remain attractive, year-round destinations.

The future of retail in the Middle East is far from a one-size-fits-all approach. The digital world is fundamentally changing the way we shop. No longer are malls simply a collection of physical stores or somewhere to go for a few hours at the weekend; they are becoming fully integrated communities that fuse together social and urban environments. For the Middle East to compete on the world stage, it will be vital that the retail sector embraces digital innovation offline as well as online.

New Look chief Kristiansen to step down

The chief executive of New Look is to step down just over two years after his turnaround of the high street fashion chain paved the way for its £2bn sale.

Sky News has learnt that Anders Kristiansen is to leave the company, which is majority-owned by South African investor Brait, in the coming weeks.

His departure is expected to be announced on Friday, according to a person close to New Look.

Mr Kristiansen, who previously ran a major Danish retailer’s huge Chinese operations and also held a senior job at Staples, the office supplies group, is expected to move to an undisclosed role elsewhere in the coming months.

His nearly-five year tenure at the company was characterised by significant expansion of its store network in China, where New Look is targeting 500 shops over the next few years, and the stellar growth of its digital business into the UK’s third-largest online fashion brand.

He has also presided over a recent shake-up of his executive team, recruiting Paula Dumont Lopez from Zara-owner Inditex to sharpen its product offering.

Brait’s takeover of New Look in 2015 cemented the presence in the UK retail and leisure sectors of South Africa’s Wiese family, which also has interests in chains such as Iceland and Virgin Active.

News of the change in leadership at New Look will nevertheless come during a challenging period for the mid-market clothing retailer and many other British fashion retailers hit by weakening consumer spending and the weakness of sterling.

Earlier this month, New Look reported a 7.5% fall in UK like-for-like sales in the quarter to June 24, with underlying operating profit declining sharply to just over £12m.

Mr Kristiansen is expected to be replaced temporarily by Danny Barrasso, New Look’s UK and Ireland managing director, while its board hunts a permanent successor.

The company now trades from nearly 600 outlets in the UK and almost 300 more in international markets – including more than 125 in China.

Announcing the results this month, Mr Kristiansen described the UK as a “difficult” market, saying: “As expected, the UK market has remained difficult, which has resulted in a disappointing quarter of trading.

“We have managed the business accordingly by controlling costs, tactical investment in our strategic initiatives and enhancing our product proposition.

“We remain committed to our long-term strategy of diversifying the business and reducing our dependence on the UK high street, and are confident that we will see improvements, but expect these to take time.”

Mr Kristiansen, who has in recent weeks been a vocal advocate for improved clothing factory conditions in the UK, could not be reached for comment on Thursday night.

A New Look spokeswoman declined to comment.

Wishing all our readers a blessed Eid Mubarak